Ninety years after its dedication as the Sigma Phi society house, the Collegiate Gothic structure at the north end of the Quad has been meticulously renovated and rededicated as the Siuda House, home to Hamilton's Office of Admission and Financial Aid.
Named in honor of Chet Siuda '70 and his wife, Joy, and dedicated during Reunion Weekend, the fraternity home of scores of Hamilton noteworthies now provides a warm and elegant welcome to prospective students and their families. Its massive stone façade and prominent location on the Hill make "the Sig," in the words of Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Monica Inzer, "the front door to Hamilton College."
President Joan Hinde Stewart, Chairman of the Board of Trustees Stuart Scott '61 and more than 200 other alumni, officials and guests joined Inzer in honoring the Siudas for their leadership and drive during a June 1 ceremony. Chet Siuda, a Hamilton trustee since 1987, chaired the trustee committee on admission from 1994-2001 and is credited with many of the College's remarkable gains in the quality and diversity of admissions since the '90s. Chet and Joy Siuda also initiated an endowed scholarship to "create possibilities for students who otherwise couldn't attend Hamilton."
The original fraternity hall on the site was built in 1900 but destroyed by fire just five years later. Among the few parts salvaged were the side porch and a stone lintel with the carved words "Sigma Phi." That same lintel and porch were incorporated into the 1917 building that has served as a campus landmark for nearly a century. The building was purchased by the College in 2003 and has undergone significant remodeling. Bill Huggins, associate director of physical plant, points out that the renovations are historically accurate as well as extensive. They include a new, detailed slate roof, restoration of the original front door, 108 reproduction leaded-glass windows and three elaborate replica brick chimneys.
"The functionality of the space is very impressive," Huggins says. "We were able to blend the old and the new into something dynamic, and that is evident in the great pride the workers took each step along the way." The building is energy efficient, has a "smart system" heating and cooling apparatus and provides comfortable, state-of-the-art work space as well as an elegant welcome to the campus.
The building was originally designed in 1916 by a Sigma Phi, Roy Newkirk (Cornell 1907). The recent renovations and remodeling were executed by architect Charles W. Higgerson, of March Associates of Utica, N.Y.
The original house displayed many romantic features including three Jacobean chimneys, leaded glass windows, arched doorways and an irregularly placed slate roof. It included a great room, library, reception hall, billiard room, serving room and a coat room on the first floor. The second floor housed four single bedrooms with study rooms and two guest rooms with private baths. The building was the site of parties, dances, teas and official meetings and was home to hundreds of Hamilton men for eight decades.
Randy Fields, manager of the Sigma Phi house from 1980 to 1997, recalls grand times, camaraderie and even the occasional ghost. "There were three happy women spirits sometimes seen in the hallways," he says. "They were believed to be wives of Sigma Phi men who had met their husbands at the society dances. Sometimes there were voices or music heard when the upper rooms were empty."
Inzer, the dean of admission and financial aid, follows in their path as a happy occupant of the historic building. She cites the modern, functional office space, convenient parking, multi-use meeting rooms and a beautifully appointed waiting area and other public spaces, all contributing to an impressive arrival experience for newcomers. "Hamilton is so lucky," she says. "This is the front door to the College, and it is the admission office that Hamilton deserves."